Columbus High School”s baseball team needed a win in a major way.
Losers of eight straight ball games, the Falcons entered Senior Night against Caledonia High with a senior making his first start of the season on the mound.
Dylan Patel, who”d spent the majority of his CHS career at second base, was light”s out through seven innings. He”d only given up one hit and had a shutout brewing for what looked to be his first win of the season.
But he and his teammates sweated bullets after a pair of two-out errors in the seventh tied the game and left Patel with a no-decision.
Then, freshman Chris McCullough hit a walkoff double to salvage the 4-3 Senior Night win and give the Falcons a shot of momentum heading into Tuesday”s district finale against Tupelo.
It wasn”t easy, but neither have the last two weeks, Columbus coach Jeffrey Cook said.
“We had the cutter and curve ball going early, getting a lot of ground balls and routine plays,” Patel said. “All I could think in the seventh was stay strong, keep throwing strikes. We only needed one out.
“But this is big and it gets us out of a slump.”
The Falcons (12-12) could have locked up a playoff spot with a win over South Panola on Friday night, but they dropped their sixth straight district game.
They must beat Tupelo or have Starkville High lose to South Panola on Tuesday to earn the third spot in Class 6A Region 2.
Richard Keene opened the game with a single off Patel but the Confederates didn”t register another hit until the seventh inning, when they mounted a shock comeback to tie the game, 3-3.
Third baseman Greg Sykes and shortstop Christian Dale had back-to-back errors that plated Caledonia runs with two outs. The Falcons” three-run lead shrank to 3-2, and Cook decided to lift Patel for Dale, who with runners on the corners, launched a two-out pitch to the backstop and allowed the tying run to score from third.
Patel didn”t show signs of fatigue.
His only hit of the inning was a triple that left fielder Eugene Prude lost in the lights.
“[Dale] had a wild-pitch with some miscommunication with signs and stuff, but it was nothing Dylan did wrong; I thought Christian could get the one batter out,” Cook said. “It backfired, but if we make routine plays with two outs it”s over.”
McCullough paced Columbus at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double.
Dale helped make up for his gaffe at short with a single to put two runners on for McCullough”s walkoff.
The Falcons took advantage of a pair of Caledonia miscues in the fourth inning following Greg Sykes” RBI single to open the scoring. Caledonia first baseman Montana Jacobs fielded a ground ball but failed to get the ball out of his glove in time, which brought in Columbus” second run. Relief pitcher Brandon Darling followed with a wild pitch that scored another run and gave Columbus a 3-0 lead.
Darling took over for starter Zach Senneff, who gave up three hits and two runs in 3 1/3 innings.
Caledonia coach and former Columbus High coach John Wilson declined to speak to the Commercial Dispatch about the loss.
He didn”t cite a reason, other than not wanting to speak to the Commercial Dispatch.
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